How Disability Can Be Caused by Obesity

According to the Mayo Clinic, a person is generally considered obese once his body mass index (BMI) goes over 30. However, the way BMI is calculated is flawed. Since the test doesn’t directly measure body fat, it can place some healthy athletes in the obese category.

Because the testing model is unreliable, some people wonder why obesity can be considered a disability.

When we look specifically at Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), we note that most people who receive benefits for being overweight are dangerously obese. Often, their BMI is over 40 and they have other serious health conditions that are caused by or accompany obesity.

Health Conditions Caused by Obesity That Can Lead to Disability

Obesity affects everyone differently. Some people might struggle to breathe and suffer from a heart condition, while others may have joint pain or organ failure. Here are some of the most common health conditions that are caused by or impacted by obesity.

  • Breathing difficulties both during the night (such as with sleep apnea) and during the day.
  • Certain types of cancer, including colon, prostate, breast, and uterine cancer.
  • Heart diseases and conditions such as coronary heart disease or stroke.
  • Depression.
  • Organ disease, such as gallbladder or liver diseases.
  • Joint disease, including osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
  • Diabetes and its complications.

Each of these common symptoms of obesity is serious—so serious, in fact, that many times they themselves can cause disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands the inherent risks of obesity and these individual symptoms.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms and cannot work, you may qualify to receive disability benefits. The symptom or symptoms you’re experiencing will determine how you find out if you are eligible and what you submit in your application.

This process can get very confusing for people not experienced with the SSA. For help, it is encouraged that you reach out to someone familiar with the process and knowledgeable about how Social Security disability is approved or denied. Have that person review your application to make sure you are not missing any crucial information. Do this before you apply and you’ll be more likely to be approved for the benefits you need.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer